HLC Self-study 2017
Higher Learning Commission
Saint Xavier University/Open Pathways
Overview and Timeline
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region, which includes the following 19 states:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
A peer review process is utilized and based upon the assumption that quality in higher education is best served through a process that enables peers of the organization, informed by standards best understood and applied by professionals in higher education, to make the comparative judgments essential to quality assurance.
At the heart of the accreditation process is the search for the answers to three essential questions:
- Does the institution adhere to the core values expressed in its mission statement?
- Is the university successful in addressing the learning needs of its students?
- Does the institution have the appropriate resources (financial, human, and physical) to meet future challenges?
In tying accreditation to an institution's self-proclaimed mission and purpose, the Higher Learning Commission requires an organization to document that it is actually doing what it claims that it is committed to doing.
The University was recommended by the Higher Learning Commission staff for the Open Pathways to reaccreditation. This recommendation acknowledges that the University meets certain threshold standards. The Open Pathways separates the continued accreditation process into two components, (a) the Assurance Review and, (b) the Quality Initiative. Institutions currently participating in the Program to Evaluate an Advance Quality (PEAQ) were placed on a transition schedule that recognizes the date of their last decennial review. Saint Xavier University has been placed on transition map with the site visit scheduled for April 9-10, 2018.
The responsibility for insuring that any institution receiving Title IV funds is in compliance with the HEOA of 2008 has been delegated by the Federal Government to regional accrediting agencies like HLC.
In short, reaccreditation is now something of a three legged stool with (a) Assurance Arguments/meeting core criteria; (b) Quality Initiative/enhance institutional capacity; and (c) Compliance/meeting all federal regulations for Title IV and IX. Below is the list of documents required for SXU's 2017-18 HLC decennial review, the target date for submission of those documents.
Higher Learning Commission Reports
October 6, 2017
Quality Initiative Report
August 31, 2017
HLC Review 2016
Open Pathways Reaccreditation Process
The new (2013) Open Pathways Reaccreditation Process is designed to reduce the burden of the former, very lengthy Self-Study Report, while ensuring tangible value for the institution. In order to accomplish this, the Open Pathways Reaccreditation Process splits the focus into two separate but parallel components; Quality Improvement and Quality Assurance. The HLC website provides a very concise summary -- see below:
The Assurance Argument
The Assurance Argument is organized by the Higher Learning Commission's five Criteria and their Core Components (see below). The HLC has set up an Assurance system (web-based technology) to host evidentiary material and the Assurance Argument. The latter, unlike former Self-Study narratives, is limited to 35,000 words, is to be organized by Criteria and their Core Components, and must detail how each Criterion and Core Component has been met. For each Criterion, the institution being reviewed offers:
- A Criterion introduction.
- An articulation of how each Core Component within the Criterion is met, including a statement of future plans with regard to the Core Component and, if applicable, an explanation of circumstances that (1) call for improvement; (2) support future improvement; or (3) constrain improvement or threaten the institution's ability to sustain the Core Component.
- A statement regarding any additional ways in which the institution fulfills the Criterion that are not otherwise covered in the statements on the Core Components, including any gaps in achievement and future plans with regard to the Criterion.
- Links to materials in the institution's Evidence file for each statement made.
The first step in addressing the Assurance Review is development of the Assurance Argument. Assurance Arguments must be crafted for each Criterion. (The full description of the criterion are found on the Higher Learning Commission website) Here are brief descriptions of the specific Criterion:
The institution's mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution's operations.
The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.
The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
The institution's resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.
The crafting of an Assurance Argument has been the work of individual study teams comprised of faculty appointed by school deans and staff members assigned ex officio per relevant expertise by the administration. Drafts of Assurance Arguments were submitted in March 2016 and will be submitted to the Open Pathways Steering Committee this fall.
The Quality Initiative
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) expects its constituents to be engaged in a continuous quest for improvement. Accordingly, HLC requires institutions pursuing the Open Pathways track to re-accreditation to submit a Quality Initiative Proposal sometime between the fourth and seventh years of the 10-year re-accreditation cycle. Such projects may be selected and/or developed by the applicant institution itself, or may be pursued through participation in an HLC academy. If an institution develops its own initiative, such a project should have the potential to have a significant impact on the institution and its academic quality.
The Quality Initiative that Saint Xavier University (SXU) plans to pursue is entitled the Successful Teaching Related to Overcoming Negative Generalities (STRONG) initiative. Two of the goals of the initiative are to improve recruitment efforts and increase retention and/or graduation rates of African-American male (AAM) undergraduates attending SXU. The University will endeavor to attain those goals by creating an environment that meets the academic, professional, and cultural needs of African-American male students and, thereby, facilitate their success at the University. Accordingly, the initiative will incorporate a variety of support strategies, including methods identified through a review of relevant literature as well as methods SXU has recently employed to increase student retention and graduation rates for the University as a whole. The final goal of the initiative will be to provide one year of post-graduate support in an effort to help STRONG participants extend their success at the undergraduate level to the post-graduate realm.
Federal Compliance Program
As a federally recognized accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is required to assure that all its member institutions are meeting their Title IV program responsibilities as well as complying with the expectations of specific regulations accreditors must enforce as a part of their recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Compliance with these requirements by both institutions and the HLC is necessary to ensure that institutions accredited by the HLC are eligible for federal financial aid. Verification of compliance with the following federal regulations set forth in the HEOA (2008) is the responsibility of regional accrediting agencies like the HLC:
- Assignment of Credits, Program Length, and Tuition
- Institutional Records of Student Complaints
- Publication of Transfer Policies
- Practices for Verification of Student Identity
- Title IV Program Responsibilities
- Public Information: Required Information for Students and the Public
- Public Information: Advertising and Recruiting Materials and Other Public Information
- Review of Student Outcome Data
- Standing with State and Other Accrediting Agencies
- Public Information: Public Notification of Opportunity to Comment
The Higher Learning Commission also has the obligation to insure that student achievement data is available to the general public. This federal law, known as the "Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act" (P.L. 101-542), was passed by Congress on November 9, 1990. Title I, Section 103 of that act requires institutions eligible for Title IV funding to calculate completion or graduation rates of certificate or degree-seeking, full-time students entering that institution and to disclose those rates to all students and prospective students.
Saint Xavier University has for years published a Student Profile Report that contains such information but, as of September 1, 2014, a separate, high-level web page was launched and will be maintained by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning.
Saint Xavier University has been approved by Illinois to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. NC-SARA is a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education.